Promote diversity as virtue rather than threat
Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at the Dialogue among Peoples and Cultures in the Euro-Mediterranean and Gulf Area in Alexandria, Egypt, on 21
January: Since the Secretary-General and I have been in office, our respective travels have taken us to all corners of the United Nations, from Cairo to Kabul, from Dubai to Dili. Everywhere we
have visited, and among all the different people we have met, we have encountered one common sentiment — a universal longing for peace, and an aspiration to prosperity.
But we have equally discovered that many who aspire to the same things also harbour the same prejudices. They fear what is different from them: the other ethnicity, the other skin colour, the
other cultural or linguistic tradition, the other religion.
And yet, in today’s era of global travel and instant satellite transmissions, people everywhere are encountering less of the familiar, and more of «the other». This reality, in
turn, can feed rising intercultural and inter-religious tensions, as well as growing alienation.
Never has the world needed more ways to build bridges and engage in a sustained and constructive exchange among cultures, so as to cultivate shared values and aspirations.
That is why your Dialogue is so important. You can promote the idea that diversity is a virtue, not a threat. You can explain that different religions, belief systems and cultural backgrounds
are essential to the richness of the human experience. You can demonstrate that our common humanity is greater — far greater — than our outward differences.
In this way, you can also help advance the Alliance of Civilizations, the United Nations initiative co-sponsored by Spain and Turkey, and led by High Representative Jorge Sampaio. More than 80
countries, multilateral institutions and international organizations participate actively in the Alliance through its «group of friends» community.
Just last week, the Secretary-General participated in the launch of the Alliance of Civilizations Forum — a platform for frank exchanges about cross-cultural concerns and for advancing new
partnership initiatives. The Forum brought together leaders from every sphere — politics, religion, the media, the private sector and civil society. They came from different backgrounds and
perspectives, but with a common conviction that the Alliance is an important way to counter extremism and heal the divisions that threaten our world.
Like you, the Alliance is focused on results — on specific actions that impact what people see, what they say, and, ultimately, how they act. It works to change the debate in the media, in
schools, among the youth who are the leaders of tomorrow. It is forging links with civil society, foundations, editors and business leaders.
Let me mention, as an important example, a $100 million contribution by her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser El Missned of Qatar and His Highness the Emir of Qatar to establish Silatech, a
major youth employment initiative. This effort to improve work opportunities for young people, first in the Middle East and North Africa, and then beyond, will have an immeasurable impact in
preventing and easing social unrest.
The Alliance is also working to counter ugly stereotypes in popular culture. If a new crisis erupts on this front, a rapid response media mechanism will furnish voices of reason to reporters
and producers around the world.
Your Dialogue, like the Alliance of Civilizations, is a way to complement the UN’s work to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted by the General Assembly in 2006. It can also
help bolster our endeavours in preventive diplomacy, and in supporting sustainable peace processes.
No matter how many resolutions we adopt, envoys we dispatch, or peace agreements we negotiate, their prospects of success will be fragile if we do not instil in all parties a real and profound
sense of our shared humanity.
Fostering dialogue will not produce change overnight. But it will produce change that endures, that takes hold, that will be carried on for generations to come. I pay tribute to Her Excellency
Madame Suzanne Mubarak for this laudable initiative.
Let us move forward together.